The train left the station back on February 2, 2017. Maybe you didn’t get your ticket. That’s to be expected. Especially if you’re more prone to ride the fence than the rail.
Let’s get some facts straight. On that date, Chicago’s Blackhawks were “languishing” in second place in the Central Division of the Western Conference with 65 points. They trailed a hot Minnesota Wild team that was threatening to run away with the highest point total in the Conference. Nearly anyone queried would have said the Hawks were playing for second place. And that hope might have been a shaky response.
February 2nd Chicago squeaked out a 4-3 overtime win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Two days later they beat the Dallas Stars 5-3. Neither victories were signature wins. The next day was the Super Bowl. Are you beginning to follow me.
Most of the Chicago players watched the game that night. The standard bearer in the sport, the New England Patriots, rallied from a huge deficit to win their 5th title and second in the last three seasons. The takeaway from the Patriot success was pretty simple. If you wanted something that much. If it’s something you know is within your reach, if you find a way, then it will come about. A belief if you want to call it that. But if you do have that mindset. Prove it.
Captain Jonathan Toews has been one of the lighting rods. And there are so many more.
If you’re ready to get on the fact train, then here goes. Chicago has won 12 of their last 13 games. The lone loss, a 3-1 decision to Edmonton to begin play after the mandated “down” time from the league. They’ve won 8 straight on the road. And 7 in a row overall both at home and on the road. Today (Sunday), they sit one point ahead of the Wild with 89 points. Minnesota has three games in hand. But the pressure is being applied. We’ll see if the Wild can hold off the Hawks and even if they do, rest assured they and the rest of the league realize. “Damn Hawks. Won’t they just go away.”
Not only has Toews been rejuvenated but throw in Scott Darling, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman. Each of their games has risen to another level. Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and newly acquired Johnny Oduya aren’t far behind. Kane has 9 goals in his last 5 games and is second place in the points race. Panik has been playing incredibly well. The Czech winger has 17 goals and 19 assists this season. A little over a year ago he was buried in the Toronto Maple Leaf system. Think Andrew Ladd five years younger. And much cheaper.
Clearly, Chicago was fortunate to win their last two games. Friday night, Chicago stuck in a late goal from Panarin and won the contest in a shootout. Panarin, again, being the dude. In the second game of a back to back against the Nashville Predators on the road Saturday, the Hawks somehow survived an first period offensive onslaught by the Preds, kept them off the score sheet and jumped ahead 2-0. Little used, Jordan Tootoo “fought” started the Hawks. He took on a much bigger Cody McLeod in a first period fisticuff. He didn’t win, but he didn’t lose either. Kane would say in a between periods interview the fight got the entire teams attention. 2-0 lead turned in a 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, 3-3 scores. Nashville remained a pest until Brian Campbell lit the lamp late in the third for a 4-3 victory.
The takeaway? Everyone is contributing for Chicago. Some way, somehow. That’s what Championship teams have happen. I’m not saying Chicago will win the 2017 Stanley Cup. But I’m making my way up the aisle. I can see the engine. And the light at the end of the tunnel. Where you at?
Chicago will get a little rest now. The next Hawk game is Thursday night at home against the Anaheim Ducks. Hopefully, Schmaltz will be back. And maybe we’ll see a couple of old buddies on the blue line (Niklas Hjmarlsson and Oduya)
Thanks for checking in,
Jonathan Toews’ 17th goal Saturday night was the 268th of his Hawk career tying him with Tony Amonte for 7th place on the Chicago all-time list. Brent Seabrook tallied his 400th career point this weekend as well.